One of my kids has discovered that I’m ‘famous.’ It’s been fun to watch his joy because of it

OPINION: While my level of fame doesn’t match up to actual celebrities, Amazon’s Alexa answers questions about me, and that’s good enough for my kids. 

Photo by Georgii/Adobe Stock Images

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Being “famous” for being a writer is interesting, to say the least. People either know you (and love or hate you) or have zero idea you exist. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve had to say, “It’s okay” because their friend introduced me as, “You know…PANAMA JACKSON FROM VSB!!!” I wait as they sympathetically try to recall ANY reason they might know me. It can be quite humbling. To top it off, I’m a writer without a book. I basically have to explain to people that I’m a blogger who leveled up and a podcaster. Let’s just say that on occasion, I feel that it sounds like, “You don’t know this 40-something aspiring rapper?!??!”

It’s not all bad, or even mostly bad. Most of the time when I go out places, I run into people I know largely because of writing and because of the opportunities that I’ve gotten because of writing that have put me in the public eye. I’ve been on television, radio, magazines, etc. Being a writer, of the pop cultural persuasion is one of those professions that people “get” when they see you in places they recognize…like television, radio and magazines. The first time I was on television (it was a segment on BET’s “Weekly with Ed Gordon” show — I cannot find video of it to save my life, but I have a picture with Ed Gordon) I got lots of phone calls and hi-fives from family and friends who finally understood that this blogging-thing was a thing thing. 

When you show up on television and then show up in other places folks might find on their own, you start to wade into “somebody” space and then gain some access to a bit of “fame.” And if you live on the internet, as I do, for work and such, then your family and friends can google you and see your accomplishments all over the place whenever they want. 

Which brings me to my 7-year-old, who has taken to being fascinated by the fact that I’m “famous.” I’m using the word famous in quotes because I don’t think I’m famous, but he does. And he thinks I’m famous because whenever we go somewhere, I run into lots of people I know and/or somebody will ask me if I’m “Panama Jackson.” He has seen that interaction several times at this point. In my house, it’s not uncommon to hear this same son yelling at one of our Amazon devices, “Alexa, is Panama Jackson famous?” or “Alexa, how old is Panama Jackson?” or “Alexa, does Panama Jackson have books?” 

This particular son is the one who would be most interested in me being famous. He is my child who most loves the spotlight. He’s my most ebullient child. His energy and enthusiasm level for things is unmatched. When he commits to an interest, he is all in. He has been obsessed with Michael Jackson to the point of full-fledged performances. He wanted an MJ-themed 7th birthday party just so he could perform — which he did. He is now all in for WWE, and for Christmas, my wife and I got tickets for him to go to a WWE event. He literally could not have been happier.

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He’s the same way with soccer. And my fame. He loves the idea of me being famous. At times, I find myself annoyed by the constant questions about why people know me or who I met or who I know or where I’ve been or my randomly popping into his room to find he’s watching me on his iPad. But that annoyance is short-sighted and unfair. To him, I’m famous in all of the places he goes for his entertainment. I’m in the same place (YouTube) with all of his favorite people. Amazon knows me, and his teachers know me and have told him things about me that I didn’t tell him. As far as he knows, his father is a celebrity. That has to be kind of mind-boggling. 

I didn’t grow up with a parent who people I didn’t know knew. I have cousins who achieved various levels of fame, usually for sports (I have several cousins who played in the NFL) and occasionally for entertainment. In fact, I remember during college, a cousin of mine was in a group local to Atlanta who had a hit on the radio. I was always very proud to be like, “Yeah, the girl singing? That’s my cousin!” We were never that close, but I imagine if we were, I’d have lots of questions for her. And I’d be interested in her fame and what that looked like because I, too, was interested in fame. 

And here goes my kid who believes his father is as famous as the people he considers famous. It’s kind of cool, if I’m being honest. My kid looks at me like I’m somebody that exists in air spaces with people he thinks matters. If I walk in a room with famous people, he thinks I’m supposed to be where they are. It’s kind of trippy, especially at 7-years-old (I imagine) to have a famous parent, even one minimally famous like myself. 

But, it is also cool, as a parent, to have a kid who is so curious about who you are and what makes you so interesting or “famous.” It’s especially funny because people see my personality in him. I went bowling on a huge group date a few weeks back, and after I bowled one frame, a friend of mine said to me, “So that’s where he gets it from,” after I did a quick performance once I knocked over one, single, solitary pin. And it’s true. I see every bit of myself in my kid. There are worse things than your kid being joyful because he thinks you’re cool and awesome and assumes everybody thinks that. 

For what it’s worth, I think my other kids, who are old enough to have such ideas, think the same thing, but they’re not as invested or interested. My daughter has definitely told her friends how cool I am because I DJ and these other things. But she keeps that mostly to her circle and doesn’t include me. This kid, though, wants me to know that he knows that I’m famous. 

You know what? That’s pretty cool. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.

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